Veteran boat captain urges government to do public education on hurricanes
Veteran Negril-based boat captain Noel Stennett says the relevant authorities should quickly implement public hurricane and geography education programmes to increase awareness about how hurricanes manifest in the Caribbean, as without this, many Jamaicans will continue to disregard storm warnings.
"One of the main reasons I think persons don't take hurricane warnings seriously is because they do not have good geography knowledge, and I think it should be taught on a wider scale in Jamaica in the schools so people can understand when a hurricane threatens, what damage it can cause," Stennett told Western Focus last Tuesday, as he relaxed at Mosquito Cove in Hanover, where he had docked his yacht following the issuance of the Hurricane Matthew alerts.
"I think ODPEM needs to have a programme to educate the people more about disaster preparedness. Just watching it on the television, not everybody gets the full knowledge; some people don't even listen to news," he said.
SCEPTICAL OF WARNINGS
Stennett, who operates a 54-foot recreational yacht in the tourism sector, said that in his 23 years as a seaman, he has never once failed to acknowledge hurricane warnings, as in his line of business and based on his expertise, every storm threat should be taken with the greatest level of seriousness. He said many people remain sceptical of warnings, which, in a lot of cases, result in unnecessary loss of lives and property.
"What most people don't understand is the course that the hurricane takes and the temperature of the atmosphere - because the warmer the atmosphere, the more the hurricane develops; the cooler the atmosphere, it breaks the hurricane. We are in a tropical country, so if the hurricane comes off the west or the northwest side, it will come down to the Caribbean because the Caribbean is much warmer," he explained.
"But sometimes the hurricane can take a turn, but the band of the hurricane is still wide. So some people will say: 'Wi naw prepare fi no hurricane because a want dem want di Chinie man fi sell dem food' and 'Government want fi mek money', because they don't have the full knowledge. That is the reason, sometimes, that so many people lose their lives," he said.
Added Stennett: "I take the threat of a hurricane very serious. I always prepare myself for a hurricane; help the crew and so on. As a captain, we have high responsibilities. So as soon as the Met Office starts to put out warnings, we take that seriously and begin to move our vessels to safer harbour."